Eye ointment on Newborns

Katherine - posted on 03/12/2011 ( 20 moms have responded )

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Cafemom

As soon as your baby is born, you go from making decisions about your own body to making them for a tiny person who relies on you to help make the bests choices for them until they're old enough to do it themselves. Pressure! And then there are the things that hospitals do to babies in the first few minutes of their life.

One of the things I dislike is the newborn's eye ointment -- that greasy stuff they put on a eyes. It's mandatory in most hospitals, but in some places you sign a waiver to opt out. Before you can decide if you want to do that, you'd have to know what the ointment is for, and your options.

It's usually an antibiotic (tetracycline or erythromycin) but some places still use silver nitrate. Tetracycline is thought to be the least irritating to a sensitive newborn's eyes. It's intended to protect the baby's eyes from being infected by syphilis, gonorrhea, or chlamydia -- all things you should have been tested for during pregnancy. When this infects a baby's eye during delivery, it can cause pink eye/conjunctivitis making a baby's little peepers very sore and painful. It can even cause blindness. Eek.

Even if you have a c-section, the bacteria can end up in the baby's eyes by hands of hospital staff and caregivers. There's some debate about whether this is the most common way babies get it. If you're positive for the STD, this can help prevent that. So it's a good thing there. But on the natural front, breastmilk is a great treatment and preventative, too, especially anti-body rich colostrum.

However, if you're not positive for an STD is there any point? The treatments generally make the eyes swollen, red, sore, and the vision blurry -- especially silver nitrate which bonds to the membranes of the surface of the eye. A newborn who can't see their mom can potentially have some bonding issues at first. Of the four causes of pink eye in newborns, one is these treatments, it seems silly to me to administer something that can cause the very thing which you're trying to prevent if you know you don't have the disease in the first place?

But I'm a blogger, not a doctor. You can and should talk to your doctor or other experts about this and do your own research as well, but know that despite the laws, this choice is still up to you and is just the first in a line of many, many choices you'll make as a parent. You should always go in informed.

Are you opting for or out of the eye ointment?

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Mary - posted on 03/13/2011

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Ah, but those tests are (normally) done at the beginning of pregnancy. All they mean is that you were negative at that time. They do not mean that you will still be disease free at the time of delivery.

Many women who are positive for gonorrhea, chlamydia, and other STD's can be symptom free. Sadly, I have seen scores of women be absolutely shocked when told that they have an STD, and watched their faces as the realization of what that really means....a beloved partner, whom they trusted, has not been faithful. I know most of not only believe, but would swear on our child's life that it could never happen to us...and yet, it happens all the freaking time.

Alyssa - posted on 03/12/2011

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On the bonding thing...don't babies see blurry anyway for the first few days/weeks? They aren't exactly born with 20/20 vision and they bond through many more things than just sight like, touch and smell and sound...which is what they would recognise from the womb.

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~♥Little Miss - posted on 03/13/2011

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Missouri first, and Massachusetts. That is what they told me in the hospital in Mo, they could not let us leave without the hepitits vax either. It was really unnerving...but I was so loaded on drugs from the c section.....they could have told me just about anything and I would have believed them.

~♥Little Miss - posted on 03/13/2011

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When I had my son in one state via c section, we were told legally they HAD to give the eye ointment, same for the the vit k injection. We moved, and I had my daughter in a hospital by midwives as a VBAC, and legally they still had to give the eye ointment. Also the vit k shot, but I was told they could order it as an oral medication, I just needed to tell them in advance. It was a good option, but I did not do it...I kinda forgot all about it until the day she was born.

Merry - posted on 03/13/2011

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Makes me glad we are planning a home birth Julianne! That would make me SO mad!
Well, it did make me mad Eric had the eye ointment when I said no, but at least they listened when I said no hep b shot.also that's why I made matt follow Eric to the observation room after he was born. I had no trust in them to follow my wishes!

Katherine - posted on 03/13/2011

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As someone else said, when you are pregnant you are tested for everything under the sun, so it doesn't make sense to even do this.

[deleted account]

gabby got the vit k injection too...I tried to opt out...They did so much that i did not want. If i had it my way i know i wouldn't have ended up with a c-section.

Minnie - posted on 03/13/2011

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Apparently, Julianne, those admission forms you sign at the beginning let them do whatever they want...



Thankful that my midwife gave me a form to actually opt-out of vit K and eye ointment.

[deleted account]

anyone wanting to opt out should get a signed form saying they will not do it.
I wasn't present for 2 hours after the surgery and the doctors put the ointment in her eyes, bathed her, cut the cord right after delivery, and gave her antibiotics all things i said NOT to do. If you want your wishes granted, make sure you have a reason for them not to. Like a document that would give you ample means to sue them if they go against you.

Katherine - posted on 03/13/2011

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I will opt out too. I had no idea that this ointment could actually cause problems or what it was even for.

Merry - posted on 03/13/2011

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Opting out.
Both myself and my husband were virgins when we married so there's no chance I have an STD.
Also, I will be breastfeeding so there's a ton of protection there. And if my baby gets a red eye I can use my milk to heal it anyways.
So, no thanks! I'm passing on the eye ointment for Fierna and my midwife agrees that in my case it's unnecessary anyways.

Jocelyn - posted on 03/13/2011

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My first had the eye ointment (because I didn't know that NOT getting it was an option)
My second, I actually learned what it was for, and I figured I didn't have gonorrhea (etc),so there was no risk and no need.

Sarah - posted on 03/12/2011

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I'd never heard of it before COM's. I don't think they do it in the UK, at least not that I've ever heard of.

Becky - posted on 03/12/2011

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Both my boys got it. I didn't really think about it - I knew what it was for and I guess just didn't think about opting out. Neither of my boys had any trouble bonding with me.
They did both have pretty bad blocked tear ducts though. We had to see an optometrist for the youngest because of it - almost had to have it surgically unblocked. I wonder if that has anything to do with it.
I'll give more thought to opting out with our third, but not sure what we'll do.

[deleted account]

I did opt out, and they did it any way. I also said don't give my baby sugar water or formula...they did that too..
I came out after my section and she had the cream STILL sitting on her eyes. I was irrational for telling the nurses off though...

[deleted account]

I had never heard of it until CoM. In Aus it's not something that is done and i have never heard of any eye problems at birth here either.

Bondlets - posted on 03/12/2011

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I opted out of the ointment simply because I have no STDs and don't want anything done to my newborn that is not absolutely necessary. I do not, however, believe that a newborn being unable to see its mother should be a driving consideration because bonding happens over time and many situations. Babies who are rushed to the NICU bond with their parents (and other examples). I have to say statements like that make me a bit crazy. New moms have enough to worry about without feeling guilty because they can't make eye contact with their baby. We don't need more guilt as new parents from thinking our kid will need counseling because they were given eye drops (OK, that's a bit extreme but you get my point). :)

Alyssa - posted on 03/12/2011

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Hmmm, my first developed a bit of pink eye when were still in hospital, maybe it was because of this. I wasn't aware they even did this but then again I had a c section so was pretty out of it. Guess I wouldn't have noticed it.

Thanks for bringing this up Katherine, I didn't even kow about it! If I had any more (which I'm not planning to) I would opt out.

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